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Note: For the complete lessons,
with additions, see the AYP
Easy Lessons for Ecstatic Living Books.
Lesson 310 -
Fasting A Powerful Spiritual
Date: Feb 24, 2009
New Members: It is recommended you read from the beginning of the web archive, as previous
lessons are prerequisite to this one. The first lesson is, "Why
Restricting or eliminating food intake for a time, known as fasting,
is an ancient practice that can be found in most of the worlds spiritual
traditions. These days, it has been ritualized in the religions to the point
of being little more than an occasional ceremonial observance. Yet, there is
great value hidden in fasting that is being rediscovered in modern times as
more people have sought to reveal the underlying truths in their religion
and the effectiveness of spiritual methods that have been utilized by
serious practitioners for thousands of years.
The principle behind fasting is simple. When the body is given an
opportunity to take a break from processing food, it will purify itself. Its
energy resources are naturally redirected from digestion and assimilation,
and are fully devoted to conducting an inner cleanup. In this mode, the body
is much better able to overcome disease and obstructions in the organs,
tissues and nervous system, including the subtle neurobiological blockages
within us that are the primary inhibitors of our spiritual unfoldment. So,
prudent fasting is both an effective health therapy and an important
spiritual practice, all rolled into one.
Fasting is an aspect of diet, because diet is not only about what we
are eating, but also about what we are not eating. While, in the strictest
sense, fasting is about not eating anything for a period of time, the
fasting effect, can also be observed to be working to one degree or
another across the entire range of our dietary habits. In other words, the
health and spiritual benefits of eating a light and nutritious diet are due
in large part to the fasting effect, which is a condition of inner
functioning that provides the natural processes of the body a greater
opportunity to engage in cleansing, purification and opening.
So, while a purist may regard anything more than zero food consumption to
not be fasting, we are more interested in the practical results that can be
achieved by moderating food intake to varying degrees at different times.
This brings us back into our main diet discussion, which is about what we
are doing with food every day, whether we are doing a full-blown fast, or
simply favoring lighter more nutritious eating habits. Both will be
stimulating the fasting effect to varying degrees.
The goal in the AYP system is to effectively utilize all of the known
principles of human spiritual transformation through the integration and
optimization of effective practices. This will, by necessity, draw us away
from extremist attitudes about any particular spiritual method. As with
diet, attitudes about fasting that we see in the world may also have a
tendency toward an extreme magic bullet mentality and flight of
fancy, with a corresponding loss of focus on maintaining a balanced
approach. The extreme approaches we may encounter as we explore knowledge
sources on fasting do not invalidate the usefulness of the underlying
principles themselves. We just need to find a rational moderate approach.
Those who pursue extreme approaches can distort the real value to be found
in the method they may be fanatically promoting. Let's not be swayed by
extreme points of view, and take the middle road that takes good advantage
of sound principles of spiritual transformation leading to steady progress
We began with sound spiritual practices like deep meditation and spinal
breathing pranayama. And then we discussed the natural emergence of
healthful and spiritually evolutionary eating habits. We make choices about
these things as our awareness expands from within and as our neurobiology
naturally seeks a higher mode of functioning. It is the same when we
consider fasting. We have been moving in that direction already.
There are several ways to approach fasting. It will depend on our personal
preferences, and also on our metabolic health when starting out.
The simplest way to add more of the fasting effect into our daily
routine is to skip a meal for several days running. Our ability to do so
will depend largely on our comfort level. For some, it will be very
uncomfortable and difficult. For others, fairly easy. It is a good place to
start with our own experiment in fasting. Skipping a meal does not mean
eating twice as much at the next meal. It means reducing the total food
intake for a day, one meals worth, or for several days if we find it to be
For those with a medical condition such as hypoglycemia or diabetes, where
reducing food consumption could be hazardous, a doctor should be consulted
before undertaking any sort of fast.
The advantage of the meal skipping approach is that it is easy for almost
anyone to do anytime, to begin experiencing the fasting effect. The
disadvantage in the meal skipping approach is that we may notice discomfort
expressing itself as hunger. With a fast involving no food for
several days or more, the discomfort we have called "hunger" is generally
found not to be hunger, because it passes as the fast continues. Then we
know it for what it is the biological withdrawal symptoms associated with
a habitual dependence on food intake. No one will starve in a few days or
even a few weeks without food. But many have felt like they were starving,
due to the withdrawal symptoms associated with no food intake after only a
few hours. Interestingly, those who are on a long fast don't feel hungry,
once the initial adjustment has occurred. For those who have experience with
fasting for several days or more, the discomfort passes until much later
when a genuine hunger returns. This latter stage hunger is a signal that a
fast may be ended naturally.
Liquids are another matter. No fast should ever be undertaken without
adequate hydration. Our body needs water on a daily basis to continue to
function, whether we are fasting or not. On a strict fast, only water is
necessary to continue it. There is also the popular juice fast, which adds
nutrients, particularly sugar, which is an energy source. For those who are
inclined toward ongoing discomfort during a fast, a juice fast may be
We each will find our own balance. For many of us, moving gradually to a
light and nutritious diet may be more than enough. This too involves the
fasting effect lightening the food processing load in the body so our
energies can better support our inner processes of purification and opening,
and also the production of refined substances in the digestive system and
elsewhere that are directly related to our emerging enlightenment.
This brings up the matter of kundalini again, which is the rise of ecstatic
conductivity and radiance in our body, facilitated by the associated
refinements in digestion.
If we are adjusting to an awakening kundalini, we should follow an
appropriate diet, which will at times lean toward a heavier diet and eating
more often to temper the fire in the GI tract. During this stage of our
inner development, fasting will not be advisable, as it can accelerate the
purification process and exacerbate our kundalini symptoms.
Fasting is most useful before we have awakened our inner energies, and then
later on when our higher neurobiology has stabilized. During the in-between
period of kundalini energy awakening and adjustment, we will be wise to
adjust our eating habits to support that. There is a time for everything,
and everything in its own time.
In cases of illness, fasting can be combined with Amaroli (urine therapy) to
apply the powerful combined natural healing effects provided by these two
practices. This will be further discussed in upcoming lessons.
Fasting may also be combined with sun gazing and breathing techniques, which
profess to provide the means for sustaining life from sunlight and air,
without food intake. Whether this is true or not remains to be investigated
by modern science. If such abilities exist within us, we may find signs of
their manifestation as a result of long term yoga practice. Focusing on such
phenomena to the exclusion of deep meditation, spinal breathing pranayama
and other yoga practices will likely be premature. Let's be mindful of our
tendency to get caught up in flights of fancy.
The advantage of self-directed and self-paced spiritual practice is that we
can make adjustments in our practices as necessary to accommodate our inner
unfoldment. This applies to the evolution of our diet over the long term,
and to the judicious use of fasting according to our preferences and needs.
The guru is in you.
Note: For discussion on the role of fasting on our
spiritual path, see the
Diet, Shatkarmas and Amaroli book.